In _The Twyborn Affair_ White manages something breathtakingly difficult: writing about the culture of on the one hand Australia and on the other Europe and England without ringing false. He does not culturally cringe, he does not overreach, he does not get his knickers in a knot. Everything seems to be fair enough -- an accurate examination of life lived in the Old Country and the New. His gender-bending central character, Eudoxia/Eddie/Eadith, seems to be the key to his success, and one thinks that White, self-confessed sufferer of ambivalent feeling, has 'diagnosed' something crucial about the relationship between Australia and England. Gay politics seems to be the overriding concern, informing every more 'proper' attempt at influence and authority.
The novel is divided into three parts, each part devoted to Eudoxia/Eddie/Eadith in one of her/his 'apotheoses'. In the first part he/she is Eudoxia Vatatzes, wife of Angelos Vatatzes. Ironically, Joan Golson, ordinary Australian, in her quest for European culture, is attracted to her/him, as if local claims for love and affection, sympathy, could on no account be surmounted or ignored. In Part II, Eudoxia/Eddie/Eadith is Eddie Twyborn, in her/his 'ordinary', male character. Uncertain what to do with his life, he goes jackarooing in the Monaro, where he has sexual encounters with the property owner's wife and with the property manager, Don Prowse. We are very far away from the innocence of Lawson's Andy, Middleton's Rouseabout, who hasn't any "idears". At least sexually, Eddie has an idea or two about the kind of thing that can happen. In Part III of the novel we are in London, where Eudoxia/Eddie/Eadith as Mrs Eadith Trist runs a brothel. Under all the various transformations it seems that Eudoxia/Eddie/Eadith's quest has been love. This quest, however, is not satisfied by the love of the Englishman, Gravenor; instead, Eudoxia/Eddie/Eadith seems to wish to re-establish a relationship with her/his mother, Eadie Twyborn. As World War II bombs fall around her/him, the novel ends on this note.
_The Twyborn Affair_ is reminiscent of T.S.Eliot's poetry, particularly _Poems 1920_ and _The Waste Land_. White's landscape is like Eliot's in portraying an objective correlative in which traditional moral standards have declined ("the stiff dishonoured shroud"). Whereas in Eliot the decline is universal, religion attenuated out of existence, in White the decline is more piecemeal, religion playing its part in a general farrago. Peggy Tyrell's religion (Roman Catholicism), though not much is made of it, seems to be viable. White is not depressed or oppressed by the cultural confusion but seems to revel in it.
The fact that White writes about a brothel in London shows how little he cares for the Old Country. While his heart is not clearly on the other hand in Monaro country does not stop this novel from being an advance in Australian literature. If one is to have a complaint about the novel (provided one is not turned off by a consistently degraded humanity or doesn't object morally) it is that Eddie Twyborn in Part II is a bit insipid -- does not live up to the narrative's achievement in description and analysis.